We had 45 minutes until our reservation; immediate seats at the roulette table beckoned.
Mere seconds and $50 later, a pile of orange $2 chips rested in front of us and we placed them on numbers of interest: 18. 5. 25. On the corner between 32, 33, 35 and 36, giving us a chance on all four.
The pile of chips ebbed and flowed in height and girth, and then a tall guy with sandy brown hair and a flannel shirt sat down next to us. He cashed a crisp $100 and took one-fifth of his green chips— a smŲrgŚsbord of chips — and placed them stoically on 20. We peered at him curiously, our scattered chips in singles and pairs dwarfed by his confident chip tower.
“You must like 20,” the dealer joked. He nodded. Then she sent the tiny ball swirling around the wheel.
One thing goes without saying: It is downright impossible to dine at a casino, in this case, Harrah's 360 Steakhouse in Council Bluffs, without letting it ride a bit on the ground floor before or after your meal.
The restaurant, a quick elevator ride from the playing area, is full of dark wood and dim light. It's packed on weekend nights; less so on weekdays. We dined once in the bar — a more casual experience with more attentive service — and once in the dining room, where, wedged in a small corner table, service was slower.
Both times we dined on the “Omaha side” of the restaurant. The dining room, as the name suggests, is a circle. One half looks over the Omaha skyline, the other over Council Bluffs. I'll let you decipher which side is more popular, though I will say that glinty, glowing view of Omaha looks great from across the river.
There's some thoughtful touches at 360, including the house made bread, similar to crescent rolls and coated in a sweet glaze. I didn't need the whipped butter on the side, and I could have easily downed at least two of the petite swirls and taken the rest home for breakfast.
All the entrťes come with the choice of soup or salad. The salad was basic, with greens, cherry tomatoes and a scattering of shredded carrot and cabbage. We liked a roasted red pepper soup with a hint of Gouda and a not-too-salty take on the classic French onion much better.
One appetizer, a prime rib tartine, included tender, thinly shaved prime rib piled on crisp toasted bread with Manchego cheese, cumin and tumeric sour cream. My husband and I split one on the plate of four, and the oversized appetizer could have easily fed us both as an entrťe. Chef Andrew Loughrey said the appetizer is one of the restaurant's most popular.
If you want to place a safe bet at 360, order beef. Loughrey said that's mostly what the kitchen prepares, and our two mid-rare steaks, one petite filet and one ribeye, came perfectly executed. So did a pork chop, juicy instead of dry; and a pile of scallops, each tender, petite and buttery. On every plate, the proteins stole the show.
Side dishes were less consistent. A crab cake, though full of big pieces of crab meat, tasted mostly of dry breadcrumbs. The bits of arborio rice in the risotto, flavored with smoky apple wood bacon and Gouda, were undercooked. Gouda appeared again in the macaroni and cheese, which tasted good with the cheese's signature smokiness. French fries at 360 tasted frozen, and though the center of a twice baked potato was creamy and hot, the outside skin, which I always eat, was charred and hard to slice.
Sauces were uneven. A side of Bearnaise with the ribeye came across grainy and overly spicy. But a smooth, creamy mushroom sauce served with the scallops didn't overwhelm the gentle flavor of the seafood and had spot-on texture and herby seasoning. An excellent grainy mustard sauce over the pork chop is one Loughrey said guests wish he'd bottle and sell for them to take home, and I concur.
The one dessert we tried had a decadence that felt right at a casino restaurant. The PB&J mousse cake looks like a little sod house covered in smooth chocolate ganache. On the inside was a blend of chocolate cake, raspberry filling and peanut butter mousse. It was, surprisingly, not too rich, and we managed about half before throwing in the towel.
Find Omaha's best dining spots in The World-Herald's Food Prowl.
There's a few reasons to go across the river to 360 from Omaha, city of red meat. The first is the view, which is worth taking in at least once. The second is the beef, which is cooked to perfection. And the third is what happened to that guy with the tower of chips on 20, sitting on the casino floor at the roulette table.
As that little ball slowed from a whiz to a clatter, 20 hit. The dealer stared at the wheel. We stared at the wheel. Then we cheered as she counted out $750 for the man in flannel.
Flannel shirt left half his chips on 20 and we all joined him there. The little ball spun again, and against all odds, it bounced and clattered onto 20 a second time.
The man in flannel collected his $325, and an official looking casino person ambled toward our table to give the man, more than a grand richer in five minutes, the eagle eye. He played for five more minutes, exhausting his original pile of chips, then collected his $1,000 worth of winnings and walked away, cool as a cucumber.
I hope he bought himself a steak.
HARRAH'S 360 STEAKHOUSE
Location: One Harrah's Blvd., Council Bluffs
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Hit: Every protein — beef, seafood and pork included — came cooked to perfection. And the view from the Omaha side of the restaurant is pretty remarkable.
Miss: Undercooked risotto and a wan dinner salad both disappointed.
Reservations: Suggested. I found it easier to make one online than over the phone.
Drinks: The full bar will please just about anyone, and there's a big list of seasonal, mostly fruity cocktails.
Price: Expensive. At least $30 a person.
Service: Slower in the dining room, attentive and friendly at the bar.
Noise level: Comfortable to noisy, depending on the night.